An outspoken opponent of humanism's increasing ascendancy in today's world, author Jeff Ovall - whose opinions have
appeared in the daily newspapers
of Washington, D.C., where he makes his home, and whose inspirational nuggets of
wisdom can be found on the web at crosswalk.com - makes his spiritual position
clear in his first novel, Chronicles of the Hedge. A futuristic
take on the dictatorial one-world government theme, it's a kind of
pre-apocalyptic single-volume Left Behind, the popular religious fiction series co-penned by
Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
action centers on John Rex, a rebel fugitive of the Christian underground in the
Western United States Sector at some undetermined point in the third millennium.
In the Prologue, Ovall sums up the story's scenario:
Humanity's Edge (HEdge) is the reigning
world government. Ten consortium members representing every sector of the
globe make up the HEdge Council, the supreme authority of the land. Forty
Sector Chiefs were tendered appointments to oversee the world's finances;
appointments only the HEdge Council could terminate.
Living under the shadows of this godless regime, Christians risk their lives daily as they struggle to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as the war rages, God's people don't falter, but instead rise to the occasion in a mighty way.
So the struggle continues; the evils of the world seducing the sould of the many, while God's remnant batt;es against all odds to bring salvation to a lost and dying world.
When John Rex travels from his California home to New York City in the
Eastern U.S. Sector to meet a childhood friend, he is recognized by a bitter
young man who alerts the government to his whereabouts. Although the underground
Christian movement does all it can to protect the rebel evangelist, the HEdge
sets a deadly trap for Rex using his family as bait. The hyperbolically
villainous Chief of Eastern U.S. Sector HEdge Forces, Roderick Banchard, fresh
from directing the horrific massacre of a crowd of thousands at a canceled
speech in the New York State Auditorium, becomes obsessed with capturing John
Rex and forcing him to repudiate his faith.
Corrupt representatives, passionless government accountants and the overblown
God-complexes of the HEdge Council are the manifestations of a godless society's
fall from dignity and grace. In the end, it will take the reunion of estranged
brothers from opposite sides of the spiritual divide and of the law, as well as
the prayerful and dedicated efforts of members of the Christian underground, to
bring the redemptive message of Jesus Christ to the oppressed masses.
Ovall's sincerity in Chronicles of the Hedge is never in question.
The novel's high point is most likely the vividly drawn celebration by members
of the underground who, in a neat parallel to the earliest Christian community's
secret meetings in the below-ground catacombs of Rome, gather to worship in huge
abandoned sections of the New York City subway system. Unfortunately, the
eloquence of his opinion and inspirational writing too often eludes Ovall in his
first stab at fiction - disconcerting word misuses and confusing verb tense
switches mid-paragraph as well as some clunky dialogue and exposition keep
Chronicles of the Hedge from coming close to realizing its potential.
At least mentioning persecution of other religious groups would add credibility
to the new world order Ovall has imagined. Hopefully on his next novel
outing, Ovall can translate the expressive passion of his nonfiction voice into
a cleaner finished product with the help of a stern editor's once- or